Thursday, 26 May 2011
After a near terminal five year wait, Wolverine last week released their fifth studio album, Communication Lost. In the time since the launch of the amazing Still the band has been through some tough times. Personal circumstances, musical differences, changes of mind and direction have all taken their toll and the band nearly called it quits. Thankfully they didn't, and instead chose to funnel all that emotion into the new album.
Communication Lost was always going to have a tough time living up to the standard set by its illustrious predecessor. Still is one of my favourite albums of any band of any genre, and is still (ho ho) on regular rotation on my iPod, even after all this time. Many preview and review posts on various blogs around the Internet proclaim this a worthy successor. We shall see.
After the quiet, spoken introduction track, the concerns over the quality of this album are quickly dispatched. Into The Great Nothing is a cracking 8 minute prog track, mixing heavy and softer music with emotionally charged lyrics and heartfelt vocals. If this was the standard for the rest of the album, then I'd be happy.
But it's not. It gets better. As Into The Great Nothing comes to a close, Poison Ivy bursts out of the speakers and picks up the pace again. Communication Lost definitely has a more prog feel than Still, and while the individual songs are distinct and the lyrics and rhythm are catchy, they also feel more coherent and fit together well. Your Favourite War and Embrace don't let up, punching hard and backing off, hard then soft and always poignant.
There is a great deal of hurt poured into this album, as can be expected given the conditions of its creation. At times it can feel a little angsty; it's obvious that there is a lot of resentment over spoiled relationships being fed into the lyrics. But they are written and sung from the heart with Stefan Zell's unique vocal style lending force to the individual stories within each song.
My favourite track from the whole album comes next. Pulse is a unique track with an ethereal electronic sound and driving rhythm. Perfecty placed in the middle of the album, this is a crescendo of sorts and allows the rest of the album to carry the mood to the end. And this is not more evident than when What Remains starts. Almost a ballad, with mournful cellos carrying the rhythm and a single piano carrying the melody, overlaid with Stefan's lilting vocal. A beautiful piece of music.
Of course, this being Wolverine, that doesn't last for long. In Memory Of Me actually made me jump the first time I heard it because it starts so suddenly and so powerfully, and I was almost dozing thanks to the soporific qualities of What Remains. The Quiet Of Dawn takes it down a notch again with a wonderfully ambient track that still manages to stay heavy. The title track is a complex beast. Communication Lost is packed with heavy guitar riffs, repeated electronic effects and a strong rhythm. A full on prog track featuring pretty much everything you could possibly hope for in a progressive metal song.
When I first heard about Communication Lost, I really didn't know what to expect. I wanted it to live up to the unreasonably high expectations I could help but hold for it. In fact, I was a little worried that my own inner-hype machine was producing a standard nothing could possibly ever achieve. The first time I played it, it was in two minds; half excitement, half trepidation.
But did it live up to the impossible standards I set for it? Most certainly yes. It took a couple of listens to really get the feel for it, but that's just par for the course with prog metal of this calibre. There are some minor gripes; some of the choruses and rhythms sound a little similar, and one of two of the slower parts are perhaps a touch too long between ear busting riffage. But these are really very minor issues, because what this album does amazingly well is create and carry a mood. And when music can build up and tear down a mood like this can, it must be doing something right.